It’s takes a pretty large slip of the mind to forget that the Bible wasn’t written in our native language, yet the majority of Christians who aren’t scholars of the original text often forget to give enough weight to this fact. As the above graphic aims to demonstrate we should be aware that there are different types of translation. Most literal are word-for-word translations which try to replicate both the lexis and syntax of the original. Scholars call this ‘formal equivalence‘. The most famous of these is the King James Bible.
Less literal are thought-for-thought translations which are dynamic in their rendering of the lexis and syntax to try to convey as best as possible to modern language users what the original phrases meant to the author. These also try to flow well for reading out loud, and often add headings (as per the notorious Eph 5:22 incident). One approach in this area is called ‘functional equivalence‘. These are the most popular translations; for Protestants the New International Version and for Catholics the New Jerusalem Bible.
Finally, least literal -but most readable- are paraphrases, which make little attempt to replicate the original phrases, being more flexible both syntactically and semantically- often adding in explanatory sentences and using colloquialisms. These are also less worried about the sentences having a similar rhythm to the original. This is called ‘dynamic equivalence‘. The most famous of these is the Good News Bible which is often found in schools because its language is simple enough for children. Also famous is the extremely paraphrased The Message which is often criticised for being too subjective an interpretation.
You’ll be pleased to know that our exercise today is not translating the Gospel of Mark from Koine Greek. Rather, have a read of these following versions of Romans 3:21-6 and see which things you like or dislike (you needn’t read all of them if you don’t want). Perhaps combine the bits you like best from different translations to make a version of your own. Afterwards we can have a look at which the different translations are.
21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
21 God’s saving justice was witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, but now it has been revealed altogether apart from law: 22 God’s saving justice given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. 23 No distinction is made: all have sinned and lack God’s glory, 24 and all are justified by the free gift of his grace through being set free in Christ Jesus. 25 God appointed him as a sacrifice for reconciliation, through faith, by the shedding of his blood, and so showed his justness; first for the past, when sins went unpunished because he held his hand; 26 and now again for the present age, to show how he is just and justifies everyone who has faith in Jesus.
3) Righteousness Through Faith
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood– to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished 26– he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
4) Righteousness Through Faith
21 But now, irrespective of law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
5) Christ Took Our Punishment
21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.
6) How we are Put Right with God
21 But now God’s way of putting people right with himself has been revealed. It has nothing to do with law, even though the Law of Moses and the prophets gave their witness to it. 22 God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. God does this to all who believe in Christ, because there is no difference at all: 23 everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence. 24 But by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free. 25-26 God offered him, so that by his blood he should become the means by which people’s sins are forgiven through their faith in him. God did this in order to demonstrate that he is righteous. In the past he was patient and overlooked people’s sins; but in the present time he deals with their sins, in order to demonstrate his righteousness. In this way God shows that he himself is righteous and that he puts right everyone who believes in Jesus.
7) God Has Set Things Right
21-24But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
25-26 God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.
8) ‘We’ve all made a mess of things’
But recently, God has announced another way of putting right what is wrong, an idea foreseen in the Rule Book and by God’s speakers in the past. This is God’s way of putting things right by means of a relationship with Jesus, God’s Chosen. It’s for all who put their trust in him. There are to be no special categories, because we’ve all made a mess of things and failed to live up to God’s intention for us. Everybody is now to be put right by means of God’s loving action. It’s like receiving a gift or being released from prison. Jesus, by his death, has made us one with God. All we have to do is trust him! By doing this, God shows supreme goodness. All the wrongs of the past are overlooked, and a new way shown of dealing with the wrongs of the present. Anyone who puts their trust in Jesus is acceptable to God. God cannot do better than that!
1. King James Bible
2. New Jerusalem Bible
3. New International Version
4. New Revised Standard Version
5. New Living Translation
6. Good News Bible
7. The Message
8. Good As New: A Radical Retelling of Scripture
Here are some good websites for Bible translations:
New Revised Standard Version – Unfortunately this site doesn’t let you bookmark or send URLs to others.
New Jerusalem Bible (1985 Revision)
biblos.com – Wide variety of translations and other tools such as parallel Gospels.
biblegateway.com – Probably the most popular Bible website.